With the 100th edition of the Tour de France set to begin on Saturday, disgraced former cyclist Lance Armstrong says he still considers himself the Tour's record holder for titles because it was "impossible" to win the event unless one was doping.
Armstrong won the race an unprecedented seven times before acknowledging that he used performance-enhancing drugs for much of his career. Officials stripped him of his titles and banned him from cycling.
Le Monde had been among the earliest critics of Armstrong, publishing reports of his cheating as early as 1999.
In a wide-ranging Q&A with the newspaper, Armstrong said the Operation Puerto case, involving a European doping network, proves that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency was wrong when it asserted he ran the most sophisticated doping operation in sports history."We have seen the Puerto affair was a hundred times more sophisticated," he said. "Our system was very simple, very conservative, and not evil."
As for the future of cheating in his sport, Armstrong painted a bleak picture.
"In many ways, it will never end," he said. "I did not invent doping. I just participated in the system. Doping existed since ancient times and will probably always exist."